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Virginia City (Montana) August


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August, 2006
13th Annual Virginia City Cowboy Gathering  Virginia City, Montana


Report and photos by Smoke Wade 

with additional photos by Jamie-Parker Frank (


Virginia City Cowboy Gathering

August 4-6, 2006

photo by Smoke Wade

Cowboy poets and western musicians took a journey back through time to attend the 13th Annual Virginia City Cowboy Gathering in Virginia City, Montana, August 4-6, 2006.

Virginia City is a living ghost town with many buildings and homes dating back to the 1860's. The town is known for it's gold strike along Alder Creek in 1863. It is probably better known for the Vigilante Committee that served up justice with a rope to the infamous road agents that frequented the areas. The most notable occasion was the hanging of five members of the Plummer gang from a ridge beam of a main street business building.

The performers began arriving in town on Friday afternoon to sing for their supper at area eateries. As the waxing moon rose over the timbered mountains that backdrop Virginia City, the performers gathered on the patio of the Virginia City Café for an informal jam session. Tourists strolling the wood sidewalks were treated to a wonderful assortment of cowboy songs as the evening grew late. After the jam session ended, many of the performers were housed with local residents in homes built in the 1870's.

photo by Smoke Wade

The Saturday sessions ran from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and were emceed by Smoke Wade, Idaho, with the help of cowboy poet, Lloyd McKenna, Montana. The sessions took place on the patio of the Bale of Hay Saloon. The establishment has been in operation since 1867. Forty-five performers signed up for the day sessions much to the delight of the steady stream of tourists visiting the town. Cowboy poets Nat Todd, Montana; Ken Wellard, Utah; Dale Mailand, Montana; Lloyd McKenna; Toni McGuire, Idaho; Roberta Green, Idaho; Charles Williams, Montana; and others gave noted performances. Many western musicians also performed including Larry Gibson and John Westbrook, Montana; Jamie Baker, Montana; Bo Dean, Montana; Peter & Kristina Cady, Vermont; and John & Rob Sidle, Montana. John Sidle, along with Toni James and Mary Chessman, were event organizers, while Rob Sidle provided sound and lighting.

photo by Smoke Wade
Roberta Green

After the day sessions ended, the performers were treated to a wonderful barbecue dinner as they mingled with the guests.

The shadows of the headstones on Boot Hill loomed large over main street as the Saturday night show got under way at the Virginia City Elk's Lodge. After the emcee, Smoke Wade, warmed the crowd to the evening's required "Level Three" applause,
Ellie Corrigan, Idaho, took the stage and shared her poems of real life adventures of a country girl. The audience was particularly delighted by her poem, "The Frisbee Cat."

Following Ellie was musician Jamie Parker-Frank, Wyoming. Jamie sings and writes traditional cowboy music. With over thirty years' experience, her presentation was flawless much to the delight of the standing room only audience. When it comes to cowgirl singers, Jamie is certainly the "Real Deal."

photo courtesy of Jamie-Parker Frank (
Jamie-Parker Frank

Next up was Gordon Peterson, Idaho. Gordon is the secretary/treasurer of the Cowboy Poets of Idaho, Inc. His poetry took the audience to the trails of the Owyhee desert of southern Idaho. His presentation brought forth another round of "Level Three" applause.

Mike Burns of Alberta, Canada, played guitar and harmonica. His voice was soothing and romantic, and was reminiscent of the old time cowboys singing around the campfire. Mike also backed up the other musicians throughout the evening with his "dog house" bass.

photo courtesy of Jamie-Parker Frank (
Billy Rose, Jamie-Parker Frank, and Mike Burns

After a brief intermission, Montana's own funny poet, Gwen Petersen, delighted the audience with her own brand of western humor. Gwen, often billed as "Phyllis Diller in four-buckle overshoes", was quoted as saying,
".it is her goal to become the best worst female country western singer in the world."

Billy Rose of Elko, Nevada, took the stage next with his unique style of high-energy, authentic cowboy music. Billy lives, looks and sounds the part of cowboy singer. His song, "Old Cowboy Ways," was a special delight to the audience.

photo by Smoke Wade
Larry Gibson and John Westbrook

The last performer of the evening was Hank Cramer of Washington. Hank presented a mix of original and traditional songs about cowboys, adventurers and smokejumpers. After retiring from a military career, Hank performs full time through out the United States. His folk style of music was well presented and his stage presentation was awe-inspiring. Following Hank's performance, all the performers of the weekend joined on stage for a grand finale of "Ghost Riders in the Sky."

Once again, the western performers joined on the patio of the Virginia City Café for a late night jam session that spilled over onto the wood sidewalks of Main Street and lasted until the wee hours of the morning.

Bud and Joan Comly of Montana presented a cowboy church on Sunday morning. Many of the performers attended and participated. Following the cowboy church, once again the poets and musicians bade each other farewell, promising to meet again, soon, some where along the cowboy poetry trail.



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